After two straight wins against Emerson and Wentworth, the men’s basketball team played two consecutive games against nationally ranked competition. The Jumbos went on the road to face No. 11 MIT before Thanksgiving break and faced No. 13 Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) at home on Wednesday night.
The Jumbos found themselves in a competitive game against MIT, but ultimately fell in overtime, 71-64.
“Early on, we were able to find some open shooters, and we got a couple of fastbreak points as well, but I’d say it was actually our defense that let us get out to an early lead,” MIT junior guard Ryan Frankel said. “We started the game by stringing together a lot of stops.”
Despite a close contest throughout, some late errors from the Jumbos eventually cost them the game.
“In overtime we had a small defensive lapse where we allowed people in the middle of our zone,” Jumbos sophomore center Hunter Sabety added. “We played very well defensively the entire game but they beat us in the last leg of it.”
Against WPI on Wednesday night, Tufts led at the half, 27-24, but ultimately could not close out WPI in a tough 68-65 loss. Sophomore tri-captain Tom Palleschi poured in 11 first half points to pace the Jumbos. Tufts also outscored WPI 16-4 in the paint and out-rebounded WPI 24-15 in the first half.
WPI, however, came out strong in the second half, and a three-point play by senior Sam Longwell gave the Engineers a 30-29 lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. After the Engineers went on a 10-0 run from the 8:45 mark to the 5:43 mark in the second half to extend their lead to 62-49, the Jumbos responded with a 10-0 run of their own. A layup by sophomore guard Tarik Smith, who led the team with six assists, at the 3:31 point in the game made the score 62-59. The game was tight until the buzzer sounded, as Tufts had a final possession to tie the game. The Jumbos’ shots would not fall, however, and WPI held on for the win. Palleschi finished the game with 17 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, while Sabety posted a monster double-double of 21 points and 18 rebounds. Despite out-rebounding WPI, 42-31, the only Jumbo to connect on a three-point shot was senior tri-captain Ben Ferris. Ferris went 2 for 3 from downtown, but the rest of the team did not make any of its thirteen attempts.
“We let up some more points in the second half then we should have, but we kept up with them by scoring more points in the second half than the first,” Sabety said.
Despite the two straight losses, Tufts has been battle-tested in the early stages of this season. The Jumbos’ experience in close games against top competition will come in handy as the NESCAC schedule begins when teams return from winter break.
“Playing these high-caliber nationally ranked teams preseason will be really good for our team going into NESCAC play, because now we know we can play with the best of them,” Sabety said.